The Loaves and Fishes is now closed. Matt and Cat have a good friend from the West Wight who’s a bit of a bon...

The Loaves and Fishes is now closed.

Matt and Cat have a good friend from the West Wight who’s a bit of a bon viveur, and who enjoys exchanging notes with them on the latest Island eateries, preferably over a glass of some appropriate quaffage.

Tail-on king prawns with monkfish tail served in a garlic butter and cheese sauce

Over the years they’ve discovered a remarkable congruence; the more he denounces a place, the more M and C love it. It never fails. So when, during a recent encounter, the fine fellow hastened to pour the most extravagant scorn on Godshill’s Loaves and Fishes restaurant Matt and Cat knew that they had to try it. Read on to see if the magic worked this time!
A beeline was made for Godshill, to try the Loaves and Fishes. Several previous attempts to eat at the venue had failed because it was shut, but this time the lights twinkled welcomingly. A garrulous waitress, who turned out to be the proprietress, welcomed her guests, showed them where to hang their coats, and made them very welcome and comfortable. A couple of chaps propping up the bar were almost as jovial and, even though the restaurant was pretty empty, it felt warm and inviting.

Matt and Cat sipped drinks at the bar whilst pondering the large menu chalked up on the wall. A delicious range of entirely fish-based food was on offer. Let’s make one thing clear: if you can’t or won’t eat fish, then just pass by. The clue’s in the name – this is most definitely a fish restaurant. Delicacies on offer included seabass fillets in an asparagus/sherry and wholegrain mustard cream sauce and petit pois; six green lip mussels topped with pesto, and many more.

Deep-fried calamari

M and C, no great fish experts, were spoilt for choice and dithered greatly. The helpful waitress was more than happy to give advice, and finally Matt chose deep-fried calamari starter, followed by tiger prawns with monkfish tail served in a garlic butter and cheese sauce. Cat, having enquired about the likelihood of bones, opted for swordfish steak cooked on a flame barbeque with a Thai lime sweet chilli butter and salad.

After ordering, the diners were shown to a window table. “I’ll put you here,” said the waitress with refreshing candour, “then someone else might see you in the window and come in.” It’s an old trick, and it seemed to work, for within a few minutes another party arrived and the place began to liven up. The little front room of the restaurant was definitely the most atmospheric, and much effort had gone into setting it out. Fishing nets and floats lined the walls, and as well as ancient flagstones a spectacular Victorian tiled floor was only eclipsed by the gleaming blacked range of what must once have been a kitchen. The whole place was lit by countless little candles and lights, making an exceptionally attractive place to eat. Out the back is a much bigger room – better for a big party, doubtless, but M & C were glad to be in the little parlour. Thankfully the fishing theme did not extend to plastic lobsters; just some artfully arranged oyster shells and a synthetic fish on a stick.

Matt was entertained by how easily this consummate professional had read him; and impressed by the generous response

With hardly any delay the calamari arrived, along with a tiny warmed loaf. The deep-fried squid rings were absolutely fresh and piping hot. Cat gingerly tried one as Matt dug in, and expressed her surprise at how tender they were. The trouble is, squid, like liver, is so often cooked into rubbery inedibility that it’s easy to assume there’s no other way. Good squid is delicate, moist and tender – as this was. There was a choice of dips, and Matt had picked sweet chilli sauce. He was slightly disappointed to receive the standard sweet chilli from the bottle, but nonetheless it was a great accompaniment to the sizzling squid rings.

Swordfish steak cooked on a flame barbeque with a Thai lime sweet chilli butter and salad

Cat’s swordfish steak was next to come on the scene, also decorated with sweet chilli sauce. A wonderful smell of seared meat rose from the slab of fish. It came with what the waitress had described as a garnish of salad – which in other restaurants might have been described as a substantial side-salad. Alongside was a choice of chips or potatoes, and Cat had a big bowl of chunky chips, also piping hot, fresh from the fryer. The steak was really meaty, almost like pork. Its fishy taste was tempered with garlic cloves and the chilli sauce. A couple of bones added a frisson to the eating experience but they were not Queen Mother-bothering splinters.

The prawns and monkfish was served in a little bowl, and also came with what was in this case most definitely a side-salad, complete with a delicious home-made coleslaw. Chips came in another bowl, and the whole ensemble was well-presented and most appetising. Matt was just reflecting on how he was going to mop up that garlicky, cheesy juice when, in a moment of uncanny timeliness, the chef himself appeared with two more of those delicious fresh-baked rolls, offering them to Matt as sauce soakers. Matt was surprised and delighted. It later transpired, as the waitress could not help but report, that she had been so worried by the look on Matt’s face when she delivered his main course, she’d reported to the chef that the portion was not going to be enough! Matt was entertained by how easily this consummate professional had read him; and impressed by the generous response made almost before he’d begun to think the thought himself. An outstanding bit of intuitive service indeed, and a really enjoyable dish made even better.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Drinks £3.25
Calamari starter £5.95
Swordfish steak £11.95
Monkfish tail and tiger prawns £13.95
Bread-and-butter pudding £4.50

Total: £39.60

Mellowed by this highly enjoyable experience, Matt and Cat elected to share a pudding. Once more the waitress sallied forth, and this time she had clearly decided what her customers were going to order. By the time she had finished describing in exquisite detail the home-made peach bread and butter pudding with Baileys and Tia Maria, there was hardly any point running over the various other freezer-fodder options, which sounded like they might come in a stainless-steel bowl. M & C, clay in the hands of this woman, dutifully took direction and ordered the bread-and-butter pudding.

Home-made peach bread and butter pudding with Baileys and Tia Maria

Of course, she was right, and this pud was the tops. A thick, custardy sauce suffused the hot pudding, which was crammed with dried fruit and peach chunks soaked in alcohol. Never overwhelming, this unusual concoction nonetheless rounded the meal off with a definite memorable taste twang. A rare beast: the sophisticated bread-and-butter pudding.

Replete, and very contented, Matt and Cat wandered up to the bar to settle up. As the evening was quietening down, the chef and his colleague had come out and were chatting with customers. There was no doubt these chaps knew their business, speaking about seafood with a passion. The final surprise of the evening came when the bill arrived – just shy of £40. Not the cheapest, but for a meal of this quality, and especially when M & C couldn’t help but compare it with nearly £55 for a far inferior offering in Mojac’s recently, this was good value indeed.

So, once more the magic has worked. Matt and Cat’s friend has unerringly sniffed out another eating-house which they found to be delightful. A charming, well-laid out and welcoming venue, most definitely recommended.

The Loaves and Fishes is now closed.